One of the challenges facing the federal government in the fight against illegal mining is that illegal miners connive with security officers to carry out their illegal activities, the Minister of State for Mines and Steel, Uche Ogah, has said.

He listed lack of adequate manpower and low level technology for the ministry as other challenges faced by the government.

He made these comments at a two-day public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy.

The hearing is aimed at investigating the loss of $9 billion annually due to illegal mining and smuggling of gold.

It was organised to allow relevant agencies make their inputs into four bills namely; Nigerian Minerals Development Corporation Establishment Bill 2021, Solid Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission Establishment Bill 2021, Institute of Bitumen Management Establishment Bill 2021, and the Explosive Act 1964 Repeal and Re-enactment Bill 2021.

The Senate had in December 2020, mandated the panel to probe the loss of N9 billion annually as reported by the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

The mandate was sequel to the consideration of a motion on illegal mining and smuggling of gold in the country brought by Abia senator, Orji Kalu.

In his presentation, the minister urged the committee to set up a panel or have authorised personnel like the EFCC or the police, to carry out the investigation.

While he emphasised the need to establish a regulatory framework to monitor mining activities, he informed the panel that smuggling of gold is mostly done using private jets hence the need to involve the aviation ministry.

The negative impacts of illegal mining include poverty, limited income generating opportunity, environmental degradation resulting in shallow ponds, infiltration and illegal migration, loss of revenue, poor mining method and unfavourable sales condition, he explained.

“Efforts of the government include formalisation of informal mining operations, sensitisation and campaign, strengthening zonal field offices.

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“The challenges to curbing illegal mining are connivance of illegal miners with security officers, lack of adequate manpower, low level technology and invasion of mining communities,” he said.



Recommendations

Mr Ogah called for improved funding for the ministry, provision of adequate logistics, equipment for fieldwork, training and retraining of mining engineers and resuscitation of the revenue generation committee of the ministry.

He also recommended implementation of government policies on mining, the use of remote sensing systems, collaboration with host communities, creation of mining desks in FIRS, mines police and re-enactment of stringent laws for illegal mining.

Earlier, the Managing Director/CEO of Manorda Nigeria Limited, Mohammed Auwulu, told the panel that Nigeria loses N100 million weekly and over N500 billion annually from gold smuggling.

He said gold smuggling “happens because of problematic and complicated export procedures and lack of trust in the system” – issues he said can be dealt with to allow a more-friendly gold market.

He also said the procedure for mining and exportation should be harmonised and streamlined.

Meanwhile, the President, Miners Association of Nigeria, Kabir Kankara, called for improved funding for the mines and steel ministry as well as a regulatory framework to monitor foreigners.

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